Mat-Su School Board to vote on ‘moment of silence’ board policy at next meeting

If passed, homeroom teachers would be required to set aside at least 1 minute of quiet time in their classroom
If passed, homeroom teachers would be required to set aside at least 1 minute of quiet time in their classroom
Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 6:36 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - During the first regular meeting of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District School Board for the new school year Aug. 17, Board President, Ryan Ponder gave the first reading of proposed board policy 6117.

The board policy would create a daily moment of silence as part of students’ morning routine, if passed.

“The School Board finds that in the hectic society of today, too few persons are able to experience even a moment of quiet reflection before plunging headlong into the activities of daily life,” the board policy draft reads. “Young persons are particularly affected by the absence of an opportunity for a moment of quiet reflection. The School Board finds that our youth, and society as a whole, would be well served if students in schools were afforded a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day.”

The policy goes on to state that principals would require homeroom or first-period teachers in all grades district-wide to set aside at least one minute, but no more than two minutes of silence. During this time, students are not allowed to interfere with other students’ participation, and teachers are not allowed to suggest how a student chooses to utilize that time.

Supporters of the initiative such as school board member Jubilee Underwood consider it a tool for classroom management and say it’s a good way to transition classrooms to active learning after getting settled in the mornings.

“It’s teaching kids just how to have self-discipline - to be quiet for one to two minutes,” Underwood said during the Aug. 17 meeting. “Which is being able to have self-control, which is a valuable life lesson anywhere you go.”

Multiple board members voiced their support during the school board meeting, but not everyone was in consensus. District 6 board member Dwight Probasco said the school board has other things to work on, and now is not the time to be implementing a policy of this caliber.

“Our plate is full with transportation issues, we’ve already had one school shut down because of COVID, we’re trying to implement the new PLC late start day on Monday,” Probasco listed. “Let’s give our teachers more to do. Let’s institute a moment of silence in our schools, and a big question I have is why.”

Probasco was the only school board member who publicly opposed the policy during the meeting and questioned where the idea originated from. A social media post on a Mat-Su community Facebook page skepticized that there was religious intent behind the move. The post garnered over 600 comments from people both for and against the policy moving forward, some calling it a waste of time while others expressed their interest in having prayer in schools.

“The only thing being required in class is the class to remain quiet for 60 to 120 seconds each day so that reflection can be fostered and for parents to be informed of this by their first-period homeroom teacher,” Ponder stated in the meeting. “Absolutely nothing more.”

Concerns over religious intentions are only speculation, as there is no mention of religion in the drafted board policy, but another concern Probasco has is the lack of public comment on the subject.

“We have implemented other policies, other changes in the last three years to our schools and they always involve a survey of the community to gather the community input,” Probasco said. “They involve surveys of the staff to gather staff input. A lot of work goes into those changes.”

Community members will be allowed to voice their opinions during a public comment section at the next school board meeting scheduled for Sept. 7 at Butte Elementary School. The board is expected to vote on the policy after public comment is heard.